NYC’s Most Comprehensive Celebration of Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa
Retrospective Series at Japan Society and MoMA Features Masterpieces and Rarities in 35mm & a World Premiere Restoration of Yasujiro Ozu’s FLOATING WEEDS
Source: Japan Society press release
Special Thanks to Shannon Jowett
Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cameraman
April 12-29, 2018, at The Museum of Modern Art
April 13-28, 2018, at Japan Society
** Related Screenings April 6 at Japan Society, and April 6-12 at Film Forum **
New York, NY — Working intimately with directors like Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa on some of their most important films, Kazuo Miyagawa (1908-99) pushed Japanese cinema to its highest artistic peaks through his lyrical, innovative, and technically flawless camerawork. Considered the greatest cinematographer of postwar Japanese cinema whose career endured through the 1990s, Miyagawa has influenced generations of leading filmmakers around the world.
In celebration of the 110th anniversary of Miyagawa’s birth, and coinciding with Japan Society’s 110th Anniversary season, the Society presents Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cameraman. Co-organized and co-presented by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), with additional titles screening at Film Forum and as part of the Society’s Monthly Classics series, this career-spanning selection displays the preeminent cinematographer’s great versatility, including major masterpieces and rarely shown titles, screening in 35mm and new digital restorations. Spanning two months and three venues, the citywide celebration encompasses 27 films, representing over 30 years of Miyagawa’s career.
The series at Japan Society launches April 13 with a brand new 4K restoration of Ozu’s FLOATING WEEDS, featuring an introduction with Miyagawa’s son Ichiro Miyagawa and Miyagawa’s longtime camera assistant Masahiro Miyajima, followed by a public reception. Additional highlights among the Society’s selection are very rarely screened 35mm prints imported from Japan unavailable on streaming or U.S. home video, including THE RICKSHAW MAN, A CERTAIN KILLER, THE DEVIL’S TEMPLE, and THE SPIDER TATTOO. Also screening on 35mm are the seldom screened BALLAD OF ORIN, ZATOICHI AND THE CHEST OF GOLD and ODD OBSESSION, as well as the 4K restoration of TOKYO OLYMPIAD. Landmark classics RASHOMON and STREET OF SHAME round out the Society’s presentation.
For its portion of the series, MoMA presents the World Premiere of the FLOATING WEEDS restoration for the series launch on April 12, as well as repeat screenings of Japan Society’s lineup and additional titles through April 29, including BAMBOO DOLLS OF ECHIZEN, CHILDREN HAND IN HAND, CONFLAGRATION, GONZA THE SPEARMAN, HER BROTHER, SILENCE, SINGING LOVEBIRDS, SUZAKUMON, TAIRA CLAN SAGA, THE GAY MASQUERADE, and SISTERS OF NISHIJIN.
Preceding the retrospective, new 4K restorations of Mizoguchi’s A STORY OF CHIKAMATSU and SANSHO THE BAILIFF, both shot by Miyagawa, run at Film Forum from April 6-12. Additionally, Japan Society screens films featuring the work of Miyagawa as Monthly Classics, including Mizoguchi’s UGETSU on April 6.
“There hasn’t seen a substantial retrospective of Miyagawa’s incredible work in New York City since 1981 when Japan Society presented 25 films with Miyagawa in attendance,” said Aiko Masubuchi, Senior Film Programmer at Japan Society. “On the occasion of his 110th birthday and our 110th anniversary, it is an honor to partner with MoMA and work with Film Forum to expand the line-up for the largest, most comprehensive retrosp
ctive dedicated to the master cinematographer, and give a new generation of New Yorkers an opportunity to fully appreciate one of the most seen but least known film artists in history.”
“Kazuo Miyagawa is credited with having invented a filmmaking technology, the ‘bleach bypass,’ on Kon Ichikawa’s Her Brother (1960), a process by which he gained greater control over color saturation and tonality,” said Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art. “For more than 50 years, such technological and artistic innovations have influenced cinematographers as far ranging as Vittorio Storaro and Roger Deakins, who have similarly used Miyagawa’s bleach bypass technique to cast a silvery sheen over their color images, as well as other conceits like his use of mirrors outdoors to create dappled effects of sunlight and shadow.”
Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cameraman at Japan Society is made possible through the generous support of The Globus Family. Japan Society Film is generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, Masu Hiroshi Masuyama, James Read Levy, Geoff Matters, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Mr. and Mrs. Omar H. Al-Farisi, Laurel Gonsalves, and Akiko Koide and Shohei Koide.
The series at The Museum of Modern Art is sponsored by MUFG Union Bank.
Tickets for Japan Society Screenings: $13/$10 seniors and students/$9 Japan Society members, except for screening of FLOATING WEEDS + reception: $17/$14/$13. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets for at least three different films in the same transaction receive $2 off each ticket.
For MoMA’s full line up and ticket information, visit moma.org. For Film Forum’s related selections, visit visit filmforum.org.
ABOUT KAZUO MIYAGAWA
“Naming the most skillful cinematographer of a country is often a difficult task. In Japan the job is simplified somewhat by the international reputation earned by Kazuo Miyagawa,” wrote American Cinematographer in 1960. By then a respected industry veteran renowned for his work on masterpieces like RASHOMON and UGETSU, Miyagawa would go on to solidify his standing as Japan’s preeminent cinematographer throughout the rest of his extraordinary career, working on over 130 films, many of them among the best Japanese cinema has to offer.
Miyagawa, born in Kyoto in 1908, found the roots of his interest in image making through an early study of sumi-e ink painting, which informed his appreciation of the subtle tonal variations within black and white. This eventually led him to take up monochrome still photography as a teenager. After high school, Miyagawa landed a job at Nikkatsu’s Kyoto studio. He worked in the film lab, developing and tinting prints until he joined the cinematography department in 1928, where he cut his teeth as a focus puller and second-unit cameraman.
Miyagawa continued to develop his technical expertise and ingenuity, receiving his first credit as cinematographer in 1935. Often working on comedies during this time, he earned the nickname “the comic cameraman.” It was in 1943 that he had a major artistic breakthrough with THE RICKSHAW MAN, directed by his early mentor Hiroshi Inagaki, with whom he learned to effectively use tracking shots, cranes and other cinematographic devices. THE RICKSHAW MAN was produced by Daiei — who took over Nikkatsu’s Kyoto studio that same year, and for whom Miyagawa continued to work almost exclusively until 1969.
After contributing to the immense success of Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMON in 1950, Miyagawa worked with Kenji Mizoguchi on several of his most well-known films — including UGETSU, SANSHO THE BAILIFF, A STORY FROM CHIKAMATSU and his first color film, NEW TALES OF THE TAIRA CLAN — helping perfect Mizoguchi’s signature visual style. He continued to make his mark at Daiei with other major directors like Kozaburo Yoshimura and Kon Ichikawa, working on up to five films a year. Never hesitating to experiment with cinematic technique, Miyagawa tested the limits of new technologies such as anamorphic formats and color film stocks. Perhaps most notably, he is credited with innovating a bleach bypass film-developing technique for Ichikawa’s HER BROTHER, resulting in a uniquely washed out color.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, Miyagawa also worked with several of Japan’s most inventive genre directors such as Kazuo Mori and Kenji Misumi, tackling yakuza, chanbara and exploitation films, including several entries in the popular Zatoichi series. In the later part of his career, he found a creative partner in Japanese New Wave auteur Masahiro Shinoda, with whom he continued to make visually superlative films that garnered international attention such as SILENCE and BALLAD OF ORIN, the latter of which earned him a Japanese Academy Prize for Best Cinematography. In 1978, Miyagawa received the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon from the Japanese government for his contributions to Japanese art. In 1981, he was honored by members of the American Society of Cinematographers at a tribute hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Miyagawa remained professionally active into his eighties, spending the last part of his life teaching film technique at Osaka University of the Arts, and passed away in Tokyo in 1999 at the age of 91.
JAPAN SOCIETY SCREENING SCHEDULE
All films below screened at Japan Society and presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
FLOATING WEEDS (浮草, Ukigusa)
Friday, April 13 at 7:00 pm
**New 4K restoration
**Introduction with Ichiro Miyagawa, Kazuo Miyagawa’s son, and Masahiro Miyajima, Miyagawa’s longtime camera assistant
**Followed by a reception
1959, 119 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. With Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyo, Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi.
When an aging actor returns to a small seaside town with his traveling kabuki troupe, he is reunited with a former lover and their illegitimate son, bringing out the bitter jealousy of his current mistress.
A remake of his own 1934 silent classic, Yasujiro Ozu’s third foray into color filmmaking resulted in one his most visually evocative films—a late period masterpiece that marries the director’s distinct style with Miyagawa’s extraordinarily deep understanding of color and light. With this brand new restoration, the film is given dazzling new life. “In FLOATING WEEDS, [Miyagawa] created the most pictorially beautiful of all of Ozu’s pictures.” —Donald Richie
Saturday, April 14 at 4:30 pm
1950, 88 min., DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura.
Speaking about Miyagawa’s camera work for RASHOMON, director Akira Kurosawa said, “I think black-and-white photography reached its peak with that film.” An international breakout success, Kurosawa’s magnificently shot film about the unknowability of truth burst doors open for Japanese cinema when it won the Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival.
Working with the master director for the first time, Miyagawa pushed the possibilities of cinematographic expression and technique with elaborate tracking shots, expressive lighting with mirrors, and, most famously, by shooting straight into the sun. “RASHOMON is a film where the camera has a starring role.” —Akira Kurosawa
THE RICKSHAW MAN (無法松の一生, Muhomatsu no Issho)
Saturday, April 14 at 7:00 pm
1943, 80 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. With Tsumasaburo Bando, Ryunosuke Tsukigata, Keiko Sonoi, Kyoji Sugi. Co-presented with The Japan Foundation.
This seldom seen classic about a crude but honest rickshaw man who falls in love with an army captain’s widow is an early highlight in Miyagawa’s career, directed by his frequent collaborator Hiroshi Inagaki (whose 1958 color remake is better known). Marked by Miyagawa’s ambitious camerawork, the film culminates in a tour-de-force display of technical skill with a meticulously planned 2 ½ minute sequence in which 46 individual shots are superimposed to create a sublime dream-like montage of light, shadow and movement — all accomplished without an optical printer or light meter.
A CERTAIN KILLER (ある殺し屋, Aru Koroshiya)
Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 pm
1967, 82 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Mori. With Raizo Ichikawa, Yumiko Nogawa, Mikio Narita, Mayumi Nagisa. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
A stylish crime thriller by genre director Kazuo Mori from a script by Yasuzo Masumura, starring Daiei superstar Raizo Ichikawa as a nihilistic ex-kamikaze pilot restaurateur who moonlights as a contract killer for the yakuza. A solitary figure, the silent hitman’s ascetic lifestyle is intruded upon by an insistent young woman and ambitious gangster who eventually plot to betray him.
Shot amidst a backdrop of barren wastelands and equally stark interiors, Miyagawa’s muted colors and precise widescreen framing visually match the icy, calculated persona of Ichikawa’s killer in this little-known late ’60s gem.
ZATOICHI AND THE CHEST OF GOLD (座頭市千両首, Zatoichi Senryo-kubi)
Friday, April 20 at 7:00 pm
1964, 83 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro. With Shintaro Katsu, Mikiko Tsubouchi, Machiko Hasegawa, Tomisaburo Wakayama.
In this sixth installment of the popular Zatoichi film series, the blind masseur is mistakenly accused of stealing a large sum of tax payments belonging to poor villagers. To clear his name, he sets out to find the actual thieves.
Both working on the Zatoichi series for the first time, director Kazuo Ikehiro and Miyagawa inject a hefty dose of style with impressive visuals, including a flashy opening credit sequence and an unforgettable final showdown between Shintaro Katsu’s Zatoichi and a sadistic rival swordsman played by Katsu’s brother Tomisaburo Wakayama.
TOKYO OLYMPIAD (東京オリンピック, Tokyo Orinpikku)
Saturday, April 21 at 2:00 pm
** New 4K restoration
1965, 170 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kon Ichikawa.
Commissioned by the Japan Olympic Committee, director Kon Ichikawa and Miyagawa supervised a team of 164 cameramen, furnished with over 100 cameras and almost 250 lenses, to cover every angle of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Whittled down from over 70 hours of footage, the result is an epic yet intimate film that captures the human drama of the games with artistry and supreme technical skill. Initially rejected by the Olympic organizers, it nevertheless went on to become a huge international sensation and remains one of Ichikawa’s (and Miyagawa’s) greatest achievements. Winner, 1965 Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Award. “So singular and stylized is Ichikawa’s approach to his record of the 1964 Olympics that it can hardly be called a documentary.”—James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario
THE DEVIL’S TEMPLE (鬼の棲む館, Oni no Sumu Yakata)
Saturday, April 21 at 6:00 pm
1967, 82 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Misumi. With Shintaro Katsu, Hideko Takamine, Michiyo Aratama, Kei Sato. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
A woman visits an abandoned mountain temple outside Kyoto in medieval Japan where her husband, a fallen nobleman turned vicious killer, is living with his lover. Failing to win him back, she refuses to leave for months until a traveling priest seeking shelter enters the temple and unwittingly instigates a deadly battle of wills.
Primarily known for his masterful chanbara films, director Kenji Misumi teamed with Miyagawa to transform this four-person chamber drama about exorcising evil into an operatic, visually flamboyant and psychologically charged masterpiece of mood and claustrophobic mise-en-scene.
THE SPIDER TATTOO (刺青, Irezumi)
Saturday, April 21 at 8:00 pm
1966, 86 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Akio Hasegawa, Gaku Yamamoto, Kei Sato. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
In this darkly erotic Junichiro Tanizaki adaptation directed by Yasuzo Masumura, a beautiful young woman is abducted and sold to a geisha house where a large spider is unwittingly tattooed on her back. Motivated by a supernatural thirst for vengeance, she ruthlessly manipulates the men who lust after her, leaving a pile of bodies in her wake.
Using Eastman stock, Miyagawa referenced the rich colors and sharp tones of ukiyo-e woodblock printing to create images that emphasize contrast and clarity, paying particular attention to vibrant whites and reds — especially blood.
STREET OF SHAME (赤線地帯, Akasen Chitai)
Saturday, April 28 at 2:00 pm
1956, 87 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. With Ayako Wakao, Aiko Mimasu, Machiko Kyo, Michiyo Kogure.
Kenji Mizoguchi’s final collaboration with Miyagawa (after eight films together) was also his final film — a heart-wrenching drama about the lives of five women working at Dreamland, a brothel in Tokyo’s red light district, who struggle to reconcile their dreams in the face of a grim socioeconomic reality.
Primarily known for his elegant period films, Mizoguchi’s swan song is startlingly contemporary, imbued with documentary-like realism that implements his eye for imaginative blocking and use of deep focus. A poignant summation of the great director’s thematic and stylistic interests.
ODD OBSESSION (鍵, Kagi)
Saturday, April 28 at 4:30 pm
1959, 107 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kon Ichikawa. With Machiko Kyo, Ganjiro Nakamura, Junko Kano, Tatsuya Nakadai. Co-presented with The Japan Foundation.
When injections can no longer rejuvenate an aging man’s declining virility, he discovers that jealousy offers a good substitute. Taking advantage of an attraction between his daughter’s handsome lover and his younger wife, he orchestrates an affair between them to reawaken his once-insatiable libido.
Adapted from Junichiro Tanizaki’s famous novel, Kon Ichikawa’s farcical black comedy about aging and male sexual anxiety features Miyagawa’s uniquely subdued color cinematography, which emphasizes the contrast between black shadows and white light to illuminate the film’s complex treatment of the conflict between private passions and public decorum. Winner, 1960 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize. “A beautifully stylized and highly original piece of filmmaking—perverse in the best sense of the word, and worked out with such finesse that each turn of the screw tightens the whole comic structure.” —Pauline Kael
BALLAD OF ORIN (はなれ瞽女おりん, Hanare Goze Orin)
Saturday, April 28 at 7:00 pm
1977, 117 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Masahiro Shinoda. Shima Iwashita, Yoshio Harada, Tomoko Naraoka, Tomoko Jinbo. Print courtesy of National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
A late career highlight for Miyagawa, this gorgeously shot film about the life and tribulations of a wandering outcast goze (blind female musician) in early 20th century Japan had Miyagawa and director Masahiro Shinoda travel all over the country to scout picturesque locations. After interviewing surviving goze in preparation, Miyagawa (whom Shinoda suggested was the film’s “real director”) resolved to, “create a sense of the ideal beauty that these blind women had inwardly visualized.” The result is some of most beautiful color photography in the veteran cameraman’s large body of work. Winner, 1978 Japan Academy Prize and Mainichi Film Award for Best Cinematography. “If BALLAD OF ORIN were photographed with the usual Japanese competence, it would be worth seeing. The camera of Kazuo Miyagawa raises it higher.” —The New Republic
RELATED TALK AT JAPAN SOCIETY
Cameraman, Kazuo Miyagawa
Saturday, April 14 at 3 pm
During this special conversation, Ichiro Miyagawa, eldest son of Kazuo Miyagawa, and Masahiro Miyajima, Miyagawa’s longtime camera assistant, will discuss the legendary cinematographer’s life and work. The talk will be moderated by Joanne Bernardi, Professor of Japanese and Film and Media Studies at the University of Rochester, who studied with Miyagawa from 1976-77 at Osaka University of the Arts.
Approx. 60 min. This event is free with the purchase of a ticket to any film in the series. Seating is limited. Ticketholders will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.
RELATED ‘MONTHLY CLASSICS’ SCREENINGS AT JAPAN SOCIETY
1953, 94 min., DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. With Machiko Kyo, Mitsuko Mito, Kinuyo Tanaka, Masayuki Mori.
This new 4K restoration of Kenji Mizoguchi’s towering masterpiece offers viewers an opportunity to appreciate the nuance of cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa’s exquisite images. A haunting and elegant fable about the illusory nature of desire set during the civils wars of Japan’s 16th century, UGETSU seamlessly weaves reality and fantasy together with painterly images that unfurl like scenes from an emaki scroll. Among the film’s many breathtaking moments, the waterfront picnic between a potter and the ghost of a noblewoman is reportedly the only scene Miyagawa shot for Mizoguchi (out of eight total films) for which the famously stone-faced director complimented him.
About the Japan Society Film Program
Japan Society Film offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society’s arts and culture programs. For more, visit japansociety.org/film.
About Japan Society
Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and cutting-edge contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.
During the 2017-18 season, Japan Society celebrates its 110th anniversary with expanded programming that builds toward a richer, more globally interconnected 21st century: groundbreaking creativity in the visual and performing arts, unique access to business insiders and cultural influencers, and critical focus on social and educational innovation, illuminating our world beyond borders.
Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit japansociety.org.